Questions raised over safety of Taco John's parking lot


MISSOULA, Mont. - Taco John's is a well known fast food business on West Broadway in Missoula.

"I guess I never really expected anybody to drive over into the river," said Missoula resident Mark Lindholm.

Lindholm's talking about the van that went into the river at Taco John's parking lot on Tuesday afternoon with one passenger inside, leaving search and rescue crews scrambling.

Crews recovered the vehicle and body Wednesday afternoon, west of the train trestle near the business.

Observers note the parking area at Taco John's drops directly into the river. There's not much to stop a vehicle from taking the plunge.

NBC Montana reached out to Taco John's. The owner didn't want to go on camera but he did say customers have never complained about his parking area or the pinned-down concrete curbs that keep customers from going over the edge.

"They come standard with the two holes in them and all you need to do is drive rebar into them and that's what holds them down," said contractor David Whaley.

In light of what happened this week, others are concerned it might happen again.

"I just kind of expected it. It's close to the river, so someone's going to go off sooner or later," said Missoula resident Shania Sharp.

The city says the parking lot is up to code and legal, but Whaley says pinned-down concrete curbs aren't structurally sound.

"They're used for maybe in a parking lot so that a vehicle doesn't hit a building. A truck or a car can very easily go over one of these," said Whaley.

Others claim the danger isn't curbs or barriers, it's inattentive drivers.

"People should probably pay a little bit more attention," said Lindholm.

An investigation is still ongoing into how the van ended up in the river.

The owner of Taco John's says he wants to see what the investigation brings. He says if there is an issue dealing with Taco John's, they will address it and do what's necessary.